You can tell when a street photographer lives, breathes and dreams his images. And Lukas Vasilikos is surely the personification. His passion once was to be a decathalon athlete, but when he decided to give it up, he needed to fill it with a new one. After taking a photography seminar where he was exposed to the masters he knew he had found his new passion.
When I first saw Lukas’ street photographs, I was struck by the sense of theatrics within each frame. People placed on a stage and frozen at that moment in time. They also possess a somewhat intellectual quality, much like a chess player strategically moving chess pieces on a board. Above all they appear surreal and dream-like.
To balance his photography palette, Lukas works on personal projects where he stages each shot with friends or family. He shoots these primarily in black and white, evoking tremendous emotion. It’s his way to explore themes like fear and fear of loss through death.
“Loss is like having nightmares. You can’t control them. So I try to confront it by photographing my wife, friends and family, the way I see them. I direct and control my personal shots whereas my street photographs require luck to play a role.”
What makes Lukas’ street and personal photographs stand out is the fact he delves into his own psyche, whether he thinks about it consciously or sub-consciously. It is the essence of his personal style. You can see the surrealistic, melancholic thread that runs through all of Lukas’ photos, even if they appear at first somewhat distant. It somehow drives and shapes his photographic eye. I find myself always drawn to them with great empathy.
Here is my interview with LUKAS VASILIKOS:
Nick Name: I have no nick name.
Currently living in: A suburb of Athens, Greece.
Motto: I don’t have one.
Profession/Job: I’m a Policeman. But I keep my job completely separate from my private and creative life. It provides me steady income so that I can pursue my interests.
Street Photographer since: I started in 2007 after a trip to Barcelona, Spain.
Websites: www.lukasvasilikos.com and www.flickr.com/photos/vasilikos/
Organizations or Group: http://www.street-photographers.com and http://www.streephers.com
Favorite Street Camera & Lens: I use a Canon 5D Mark II with 35mm f/2 lens
Back-up Street Camera & Lens: Panasonic Lx3. But I rarely use it.
Favorite photography gadget: I have a plastic Diana lens for my Canon.
Favorite street food: Just coffee.
Do you listen to music while shooting? Never. I want to be focussed on my “theater”.
Favorite music when editing Photos: Mostly Jazz.
Favorite photo software: I start with Lightroom 3 and then CS5.
3 Favorite Master Photographers: I like Garry Winogrand, Diana Arbus and Andre Kertez. Of course I like many photographers but I prefer these 3.
3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: Martin Parr, Michael Ackerman (Agence VU), Anders Petersen.
Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? I don’t have any prints.
Color or Black and White? Both. It depends on the project. I prefer color for street photography these days.
Shoot Film or Digital? Digital. Because I don’t have time and money to waste. But the truth is, I bought myself a Mamiya 6×4.5 to try out film.
Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? I generally don’t have a problem with the time of day. I will shoot any time of day if that’s the only opportunity I have. However, in Athens, our sun is so strong that during the day the harsh light is not so conducive to shooting. Images come out over blown. But I like the light after 4 o’clock in the afternoon when the light has a sheen. Everything glows. Faces look beautiful, everything looks great.
Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? Street photography makes me feel free. All my senses are on alert and I like the “hunt”: to find and catch the right moment. I also take photos in the night, but that’s a whole different project I’m working on. It’s more personal. I can explore emotions like death, loss…
What motivates you to photograph the streets? I like to catch the moment that will never come back and make my personal world through my camera.
Is Street Photography an obsession? Yes, I think about it all the time except for my family. I’ve been shooting the streets for five years. If I continue like this, I think my head will explode.
Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? I am definitely a loner when it comes to street photography. I want to concentrate and be open to all aspects of life. When I am with friends or a group, I want to socialize with them. So I can’t get any photography done.
Favorite street photography city: Every city has different things to shoot. I like Istanbul. but I also like Paris. Two large cities which are so different from each other.
Athens is the city that I live in but it’s very difficult to do street photography here. There are motorbikes and cars everywhere.
What inspires your photography? Other photographers and cinema. I’ve already listed some photographers but in cinema I love Andrei Tarkovsky’s work.
What do you look for in a good photograph? Firstly, I look at the lines-composition and the surface/texture of each photo. Then I try to think what the photographer wanted to say or convey through the photo. What the “meaning” is per se, etc..
How do you go about shooting a street photograph? For street work, I do it in two parts. First I find a background to wait for something to happen that is in itself surreal or strange. I then wait for the right elements from people, things, animals, whatever, to walk into my frame. I know when I find a good background, I just have to be patient. Because the good shot happens most of the time.
For example, when I was walking one day, I saw a woman with a dog and waited for them to pass. That in itself was not enough for a photograph. But very often if you keep looking, another element will come along and connect to your first element or to a new element. In this case, the woman with the red purse walked into the frame in the same area as the red fire hydrant and the dog.
The other way I shoot the streets is to simply walk. I take a lot of photos and each time I try to add something to the frame. For instance, one day I was just walking, composing as I went. Then I came upon this couple in the ferry and the woman outside just happen to be in the shot.
Best 3 tips for shooting the streets:
1) Stay alert all the time. The good photo will suddenly appear before your eyes just for a split moment. You have to be ready to push the button without thinking.
2) When you shoot, don’t think. If you think you’ll miss your point of focus. There’s plenty of time after shooting, at home or wherever, to think about your mistakes and to delete those photos.
3) Drink coffee before shooting. You’ll be alert and have more confidence.
Best single advice on how to improve your work: Shoot every single day. Don’t be lazy. After 6 months you’ll see the difference.
Best single advice on how to edit your work: I use burn and dodge to improve my photos. This is my advice.
Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Think of a project. Then go out to shoot it. It will make you more focussed. For instance, if you choose shadows as one of your projects. Then just focus on shadows. After a couple of times out shooting you’ll see things that you missed before because you’re watching everything around you.
What’s the best moment in your street photography career? My work was exhibited in the Athens Photo Festival. They chose me from 1200 photographers.
What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? Until now, I haven’t experienced any of those moments.
What projects are you working on? On the street, I continue to try to catch surreal moments of everyday life. But you can see my on-going project “Red”, in which I add the color ‘red’ in my photos as part of the composition. You can see it here http://www.flickr.com/photos/vasilikos/sets/72157623503294932/
Another project is the “Brightest spot” that I worked on for 3 years. You can see it here http://www.flickr.com/photos/vasilikos/sets/72157603880835703/
Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? First of all I want to have fun when I take photos. And when I’m ready, I want to publish a book that will collect all of my best photos from the streets.
Leica Liker thanks Lukas for sharing his thoughts and experience with us. We will definitely revisit him again to see his progress.
You can check out Lukas’ gear in Liker Bags’n Gear here.